Hijacked Turkish Cypriot Passenger Plane Lands In Munich
MUNICH, Germany (AP) _ A Turkish Cypriot airliner commandeered by pro-Chechen hijackers landed in Munich on Friday night after refueling in Bulgaria.
Officials at the Munich airport were in contact with the hijackers, said airport spokesman Hans-Joachim Bues. He said 101 passengers and eight crew were on board the Boeing 727.
The Turkish Cypriot transportation minister identified the hijackers as Azerbaijanis, two men and two women, the Turkish news agency Anatolia reported.
Earlier, the hijackers were identified variously as Chechens or Russians. It was also not clear how they were armed. The deputy head of Bulgaria’s national security service, Vladimir Markov, said they had pistols.
The head of the board of directors for Turkish Cypriot Airlines, Umit Utku, told Show TV in Ankara, Turkey, that the hijackers said they intended to free the passengers after arriving in Munich.
``They say that they will give up the plane and let the passengers free,″ he said. ``They just wanted to make their voices heard.″
But Bues said he could not confirm if that was their intention.
About 200 police were on alert at the airport, but they were staying out of the hijackers’ view. ``We’re handling this so we get the best result,″ Munich airport police commissioner Egon Schaedle said.
The plane landed in Munich at 11:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. EST), some 5 1/2 hours after it was commandeered after taking off from northern Cyprus for Istanbul.
Mehmet Irtemcelik, Turkey’s ambassador to Bulgaria, told the private Turkish television station HBB that 47 Turks, 33 Turkish Cypriots, two Russians, and at least five Belgians were among the passengers.
The others included an American, Japanese, Iranian, Dane, German, Ukrainian and Sudanese. The American was identified by Turkey’s Anatolia news agency as James Richard Walton, but no hometown was given.
Earlier, the hijacked plane had been shadowed by Bulgarian MiG-23 warplanes as it descended toward the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, about 9 p.m. (2 p.m. EST), airport authorities said.
A crew member disembarked briefly to oversee the refueling process, but Danyo Adanev, director of Sofia airport, said no passengers left the plane.
Utku was quoted by Anatolia as saying the Bulgarians refueled the plane after the hijackers threatened to blow it up.
On Jan. 16, nine pro-Chechen gunmen, protesting Moscow’s attempt to crush a rebellion by Chechen separatists, hijacked a Turkish ship in the Black Sea and kept more than 200 people hostage for three days from a Turkish port before it was to sail off for the Russian port of Sochi.
They included six Turks and three Russians of Caucasian origin.
The hijackers diverted the ship toward Istanbul but Turkish authorities refused to allow the ferry into the Bosporus Strait and negotiated a peaceful end, capturing the hijackers.